Not for the first time, the words "avocado toast" were the spark that blasted the news cycle. Australian millionaire Tim Gurner called out young people on their excessive spending habits, "When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocados for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each."

His message was loud and clear: Millennials are unable to save money for a down payment because they waste their money on absurd luxuries.

Predictably, the Twittersphere went wild.

In many cities, property and rental prices have gone through the roof and into the stratosphere.

Today's economic climate often pits young people just starting out against wealthy foreign investors in a bidding war they can't win. Even those with access to cash through inheritance or wealthy parents are barely getting by.

For Millennials living in these hyper-inflated real estate markets around the world, it's incredibly off-putting to hear that to get their foot in the door, they just need to save more. Given this reality and his position as a real estate mogul, Gurner's comments have been called "obnoxious" and "immoral."

An interesting point is that the 35-year-old millionaire was one of the lucky ones. Gurner received a loan of $34,000 from his grandfather to start his first business at the age of 19. The young man guessed rightly what to do with the cash and invested the money into renovating a run-down suburban gym. When that business caught on, he sold it and went on to start another.

Like other successful young entrepreneurs, Gurner started young. While others his age were heading off to college to learn and have fun, he put his efforts into building his first viable business.

A pattern is definitely emerging here-and it's not just that the rich get richer.

Gurner's focus was on earning and investing money into businesses that sold luxuries to other people, not on buying luxuries for himself.

Australian news reports that today, Gurner heads a $460 million property empire.

To discover the secret to his success, you can visit his website, gurner.com, and read the blurb beneath the company's vision statement:

Understanding how residents aspire to live is pivotal for our vision.

It's clear that Gurner is building his fortune off the idea that people, no matter how much money they have, want to live a luxury lifestyle. When he talked smack about avocado toast, he was speaking from experience.

Yet Americans haven't always been so spend-happy. After WWII, households began to save more, and the government encouraged this trend by starting programs and institutions that promoted saving.

What changed was the birth of credit cards in the 1980s and the deregulation of the finance industry in the 80s and 90s. Today, American kids are given credit cards without receiving any finance training at all. Add in artificially low interest rates and #KeepingUpWithTheKardashians, and there's little wonder we're in a pickle.

Now almost 60% of Americans don't have enough savings to cover a $500 to $1,000 emergency expense, according to a study from Bankrate. Just over 20% of study participants said that they'd put the expense on a credit card. Another 20% would "cut their spending" (temporarily, we assume) and 11% would ask friends or family for help.

We've become a nation of reckless spenders who would rather ask for money from someone else than own last year's iPhone or control our fancy toast habits.

Yet deep down, we all know that buying stuff is not a path to happiness or meaning in life. Who really believes that happiness is tied to the number of things they own?

It's time to realize that we're made for something bigger than just consuming. Whatever your goals are, take this chance to rise above the Instagram mantras and stop buying luxuries you don't really need. None of it will make you happy-not for long.

Instead, you should do two things. Firstly, focus on making the conscious choice to change your spending mindset. And second, learn to spend less so you can save more each day-which translates to spending more of your money on things that will make your life better in the long run.

Step 1: Change your mindset

Avocado on a pedestal
Anastasia Yevtushenko for MoneyWise © 2576250 Ontario Inc. 2017
You don't have to chase a lifestyle just because other people are trying to

Don’t copy others

You don't have to chase a lifestyle just because other people are trying to. You are unique and your life is unique. Spending your money on trends won't get you what you really want: good relationships, financial independence, and true respect.

Recognize your weaknesses

We all have spending triggers. Maybe it's seasonal sales, certain products, or addictions that get an automatic spend response. Do email subscriptions tempt you to "browse" things that you can buy with just a few clicks? Do certain emotions only get resolved by shopping? When you can identify the general trends that steer your spending habits, you can halt your spending reflex.

Look at what drives you

Marketing doesn't focus on communicating facts about products anymore but on appealing to our deeper desires. Advertisements now promise us adventure, health, happiness, respect, and sex. It’s essential to realize what inner need is driving you to buy certain things so you can find other ways to satisfy yourself besides owning artificial versions of these things.

Buy for usefulness

To live is to consume: we breathe, we eat, we wear clothes; we reproduce and start the cycle again. But we are also unique individuals who contribute to the world. When you buy things, don't make the purchase just because you can. Buy things because they’ll help you accomplish your goals or your role in the world.

Look at the true cost

Having so much stuff results in costs like upkeep, cleaning, organizing, and dealing with issues like credit card debt on your end. And although it hurts to look, there are other hidden costs to our shopping sprees. For one, while clothing prices have gone down at the cost of child labor and unsafe working conditions abroad, the cost of labor is now rising overseas. Analysts across the board are predicting that the price of stuff will be going up sharply-and soon. The spending trend is literally and figuratively unsustainable. Get out while you can.

Give more away

Go through your closet and take stock of things you don't need but that someone else could really use. That sweater you haven't worn in a year and the too-small shoes could help someone less fortunate. Giving these things away will make your life and heart feel lighter.

Focus on doing what makes you happy

Once you reach the point where basic needs have been met, buying more stuff won't make you happy. Figure out what makes you truly happy and do more of that. Aspire to enrich your life with new skills, friends, and experiences. Sometimes these pursuits will cost you money, but they’ll give back so much more.

Step 2: Spend less and save more, day-to-day

Eat What Makes You Happy neon sign on a brick wall
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Figure out what makes you truly happy and do more of that

Don't go shopping without a list

This is as easy as it sounds and is absolutely essential. Whenever you go out, make a shopping list and buy only those items. This applies to grocery shopping, clothing and accessories shopping, and anything else you can think of. Shopping with a list is the first step to becoming aware of – and only buying- what you need.

Practice the 10-minute rule

When you go shopping and see something that’s not on your list, don't pick it up. Note the item, then walk away from it. Give yourself at least 10 minutes to think through whether or not you really need to buy it. By giving yourself a few minutes to think, you’re immediately breaking the cycle of mindless shopping and increasing your chances of making a good decision. Pausing before buying will give you time to remember if you already have that thing at home and to consider the item in the larger context of your spending for the week or the month.

Practice the 30-day rule

This is just like the 10-minute rule, but it applies to larger purchases that cost a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Taking 30 days to consider a purchase will allow you to shop around for the best price and consider whether you really need the item and whether you can afford it right away… or if it might be better to wait a bit. Many people accidentally spend more than their income simply because they don’t wait until their next credit card statement to see what they can afford.

Make saving a regular habit

If you don't have one, then open a brand spanking new high interest savings account and make it a habit to put money in there regularly. You can decide to deposit a certain amount from each paycheck or maybe just put away the money you make from an extra side gig. Whatever works for you is totally fine, but the main thing is to make this a consistent habit. Even a small savings account will take you through emergencies like a health problem or car trouble and can function as a vacation fund or to save for a down payment on your own place.

Pay yourself first

One of the great misconceptions about saving is that it begins and ends with putting money into an account and not touching it. Instead, a smart thing to do is to put your extra money towards things that will make you more money. This could be investing it in your own business, genuinely useful professional training, or in stocks or a mutual fund. These kinds of investments make you more money in the long run and can fund bigger, long-term goals. With more time to think about it, you’ll discover how best to spend your money to get what you really want out of life.

Getting out of the daily spending habit isn't easy. In this hyper-marketed world, it can be hard to separate our lives from our purchases. Marketing slogans cut deep, and everything around us is telling us to buy now and think later. Avocado toast at that new brunch spot seems like both a luxury and a necessity-but you can do it for a third of the price at home.

No matter how hard it is, we have to think outside of this second and the next and look at the long game. We need to look at the wider impact of our society's push for reckless spending and realize that the trend can’t continue forever.

To get on a wiser spending track, start by saving for a small goal that's six months away, like a badly-needed vacation. Don't pay for the vacation with credit, only with the money you saved. When you manage to reach that first saving goal, you'll really feel a sense of control and you'll understand how to make money do what you want.

Next, you can invest in longer-term goals and see where you end up! There's no limit to what you can achieve by taking control of your spending and funneling your funds and energy into bigger goals that will make you happy in the long run.

Do you have a friend who could use a new outlook on spending? Share this article and help them get out of the spend trend to achieve bigger, better things!

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Avocado Toast Remarks